This is the third part of the story of my first stillbirth in November 2014. The First and Second parts are linked in this sentence, but this was probably the most comprehensive and cohesive post of the three.Continue reading
When I was three, I was in a car accident. My dad, mom, baby brother and I were headed either to or from home during the holidays. My parents told me that a semi truck knocked our car off the road, and it slid down an embankment, turned upside down and spun to a stop. I still remember waking up to see the seat belts hanging from the ceiling, and a few moments between then and the hospital. I had been cut over my left eye and received stitches. I was the only one hurt in the accident, and they could only figure that it was caused by a plastic tape dispenser.
Over the years, people have asked me about that scar. I have never minded telling the story because it’s such a cool story. God protected us that night. I never really asked why I was the one with the scar because I’ve always felt lucky to have received it. This scar means I get to tell the story.
I think we all deal with the question why bad things happen, especially within the Christian faith. We think that if we live the right way, come from the right family, pray the right prayers, go to the right church, and be involved with the right things, that nothing bad will happen to us. It’s not something we think consciously, but when something difficult does come our way, we start to search for answers as to what we may have done that caused this awful thing to happen or what we may do to prevent it happening again in the future.
But perhaps one reason we are given our struggles is so that we can tell our story.
In both of my miscarriages, I prayed that God would produce a miracle, that the sonograms would be wrong and the baby might live. Surely, that kind of miracle could be used to glorify God. But if we don’t go through the grief, how can we understand those that do? After my first miscarriage, I understood a whole new world of women who have been silently grieving for decades. Being open about my grief and loss allowed others to do the same which strengthened me with hope. Why aren’t we sharing those stories more often? Why do we think that having it all together is going to reach those who are falling apart?
We need to fall apart. We need to have lives that aren’t all together. We have been editing our lives for so long, and it’s pretty scary to live life unedited. But see, when we edit our life, we are editing God as well. God isn’t some pretty cross hanging on the wall of an immaculate home. He’s a lot bigger and more unpredictable than that. Sometimes I think we forget that our job here on earth is to point to God. Not in some put together, simple wave in His direction, but in a desperate clinging to His side.
And you will be judged. By other Christians, by people of the world. Remember that Christ was judged with how he handled the Sabbath or who he hung out with. But if we tell our story, share our struggle, really live in the communities God has given us, then I truly believe that God will take care of the rest. God is going to use your words to reach that person who forgot that they still have value and worth, no matter what they have done or what they are going through. Because no matter what society says about how we look or what we accomplish, that doesn’t dictate our worth. Only God does, and He has given us great value.
That’s why I share my story. This life is hard. There are so many things on this earth that can wound us, physically and spiritually. But God’s love can heal those wounds. And the scars that remain are a reminder that we lived through it and overcame it. It’s a reminder to share that story with others whose wounds are open, others searching for the healing balm to their pain. Share the beautiful mess, the imperfect path, and the healing strength of a God that walks with us.
One of the common responses I received from people in our life who have supported and loved us in this experience was “Grieve how you need to grieve.” I’m a pretty blunt person, so I didn’t think this would be a problem. However, it wasn’t the temptation to hide how I was feeling, it was a fear that I wasn’t grieving in the right way. After seeing people in similar situations on forums and talking to well meaning friends and family members, I questioned whether or not I was grieving in a way that was healthy. I wasn’t thinking the same things other women were saying, or doing the same things they were doing. I truly felt I was in some kind of denial.
However, I still miss being pregnant and feeling her move. I think about the might-have-beens especially through these months when I should still be pregnant and what I might have been doing at this point if I still was. But when I look at the whole picture, I see that what has happened has happened. Instead of focusing on my loss, I want to focus more on doing the things I need to do to heal physically and emotionally so that one day I can get pregnant again, and hopefully be able to hold that baby in my arms and watch them grow.
Even though this is how I felt on the inside, I struggled those first two weeks, trying to grieve the way others around me were grieving because I thought that was how to do it the right way. It wasn’t helping, but I was so afraid that the way I wanted to grieve wasn’t going to help me either. So, I talked to my doctor during an emotional check up (which they do at my clinic, and it’s awesome). I sat in the room and just opened up to her about the struggle I had with my grief. Turns out, I wasn’t that abnormal at all. In fact, half of the couples she had encountered dealt with their miscarriages in the same way. It was a completely healthy way to deal with it and move on from it.
The only way you can be unhealthy in your grief is if you aren’t honest about it. If you are angry at God and want to scream and yell, go for it. If you don’t feel angry at God at all, don’t try to force yourself to be. If you need to have a memorial or funeral to say goodbye, do it, but don’t put yourself through that if it doesn’t help you to move on. Just by embracing the way I grieve and being honest about what I need (or don’t need) when I need it (or don’t need it) has truly helped me move through this process, more than trying to grieve in a way that wasn’t natural or helpful to me.
There are different needs for different people, even at different times. That’s part of why grief is so uncomfortable, especially when you are walking through it with someone else. There isn’t really the right word or phrase that makes things better or makes the process faster or slower, and the same thing doesn’t always work all the time. Hugs helped a lot for me, but sometimes it can feel claustrophobic. Having someone to talk to about what has happened helps me process things, but I have also craved a lot of alone time, organizing my thoughts and my home. The best words spoken to me were “This sucks. This road is hard. But we will be with you if you need us,” but sometimes I would much rather just sit in silence with someone.
On a side note, when you sit in silence with someone, it allows God to fill the space between. Ultimately, he is working through them and you in that very moment. Perhaps talking through moments of silence really only drowns out what the Holy Spirit wants you to hear. I have found through this past experience how much comfort and strength I receive from the silence, from the moments when nothing is said at all. And I appreciate the people who are willing to be there with me in that silence.
I know I’m not alone. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support we have received. Those who have walked this path before have been willing to walk with us and have given us hope. You are all arms of strength to me and blessings from God. I am continually reminded that though this is a storm in our life, it is also just a moment in our eternity. I know that this story isn’t over yet, and I can’t wait to read the next chapter.
Part 3: Thanksgiving
It’s been a week since I first got the diagnosis that I had lost our baby. Despite the realities of our situation that I’ve experienced this week, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the silver lining blessings I’ve experienced as well. I tend to describe my personality as an “annoying optimist,” someone who no matter what finds silver linings in any situation, no matter how crazy those may be. It can be somewhat annoying, but it’s the way I cope. Anyway, here are only a few of the amazing things that have happened this week.
The medical staff: The clinic I go to has five different doctors there. The one that I have seen the most, Dr. W, was the one that saw me for both miscarriage diagnoses. She arrived right after I delivered last week. She said when she saw it was me that Monday, she just prayed and hoped that the sonogram would show a healthy baby. She even brought in another doctor in the hopes that she was wrong, because she wanted to be so wrong. The doctor she brought in happened to be on call the morning after I delivered, Dr. D. Dr. D said that she wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just taken care of physically, but emotionally as well. She said 50% of women who go through this get put on an anti-depressant for a short period of time to help, and that I shouldn’t feel weird if I need to take that option. Both doctors were such a blessing.
Not only the doctors, but the nurses at the hospital. Nurses in the L&D ward are a special type of people. Every single one had no problem staying there and talking to me when I needed to talk, even if it was just clinical questions to distract me from what was going on. The day nurse was so positive and straight forward. I never went into a single part of that experience without knowing exactly what to expect and what to watch for. And it didn’t matter if I only met them once or twice, every nurse was patient and caring, never acting like I was a burden or an inconvenience. They even said if I just needed to talk, they would be there with a quick push of the call button.
The community. To say that I’m overwhelmed by the community here and online is an understatement. There are so many people who were involved. There’s Lori who came to visit the evening I got my diagnosis and at lunch on Wednesday. There’s Tod and Candace who came to pray Tuesday night and visited Wednesday evening. There were the myriad of texts, Facebook messages, and emails we received Tuesday and Wednesday from friends and family, and continue to receive every day (I may not comment back, but believe me, your words are cherished). My family has also sent their words of comfort and helped where they could. My mom handled all the pictures and birth stuff from the hospital (as well as being emotional support) which was very needed and I’m so thankful she was able to be here.
Also, my mom shared with me a box given to her at the hospital from a women’s ministry made up of women who had gone through what I had. In it were notes, verses, a Bible, a journal, and other things to offer encouragement and support to me. It was unexpected but appreciated.
And then this past weekend, Lori dropped off a basket of goodies given to us from families at church who wanted to do something. She said it was overwhelming to see how everyone came together for our little family. I completely agree. We also received encouragement from our neighbors who were so excited for us and now offer us a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear. We know that we are loved and that we are so humbled by this experience.
My husband. There are no words for the amazing man that is my husband. Throughout this entire pregnancy, he has been there for me. In the first trimester, when I was sick, he came home after 12 hour days to cook and clean while I laid on the couch. In the second trimester, he would talk about our baby or how beautiful I was, and he would work on nursery projects or find little gifts or gift ideas for the future. And then when I lost the baby, he has been there for me every step of the way, handling all the details when I couldn’t. He stays up with me, when I wake up crying, talking me through it, listening to me, and staying up until I fall back asleep.
This experience has already brought us closer, even more so than the one last year. Throughout this pregnancy we had learned to become a team. We have been there for each other through a lot of changes and ups and downs. And I can’t imagine having anyone else by my side through all of this. To say I’m blessed or lucky to have him in my life is a complete understatement. I thought I understood what it meant to marry your best friend, but I had no idea until now. And what really blows my mind, is that he lost a baby too. He’s going through loss and pain as well and still stands strong next to me. Even though the experience for him is different, it’s still the same too. His strength and love are immeasurable blessings, and I’m so overwhelmed that I get to call this great man my husband.
My relationship with God. There is absolutely no way I could be upright and typing without the strength of God in me. All of the above blessings are gifts from God, and I know that. I am reminded that I’m not alone in my loss even in the Bible. Job lost all of his children, questioned God, and God answered him. I know that God will answer my questions too. Plus, there are a myriad of stories of women in the Bible who struggled with infertility – Rachel, Sarah, Hannah, Elizabeth. I know that God understands my grief, and just based on the amount of stories included in the Bible, I know he has a special place in his heart for women who go through this at any level.
Additionally, God has put women in my life that have been through what I have that I know are there for me. I don’t think that was ever a coincidence that they are in my life. This situation sucks, but I know that God hasn’t forsaken me. Like I’ve said before, God doesn’t keep me from going through the storms, but he promises to be there every step of the way.
So, coming home on Thanksgiving day from this ordeal, I don’t think was a coincidence either. God answered prayers that there were no complications and that the process happened quickly and with little physical pain. We have a community around us, some we don’t even know, that have offered love and support throughout this ordeal as we heal both physically and emotionally. And for these reasons we are truly grateful.
I don’t want to make light of this. I’m still going through this every day, day by day. Some moments are really hard. Some are easier. I imagine the easier moments will outweigh the harder ones eventually, but that’s not the reality right now. I wanted to write all of this down now for two reasons. One, to let others who may go through something similar have some idea of what to expect (although every experience will be different, even made with different choices, and that’s okay). And also, so that I can remember where I’ve been. I won’t be here forever. And that knowledge along with the love and support around me helps me go through each day, each minute, each moment towards healing.
Part 2: Tuesday the 25th and Wednesday the 26th – WARNING, this will get graphic and detailed. I will not blame you if you skip this post.
Tuesday went by in a slow blur. Michael took care of every meal, as I spent most of the day on the couch. At some point either Monday night or some time Tuesday, Michael had gathered all of the baby stuff, put it in our unfinished nursery, and closed the door. His job let him work from home (a job he only started the week before) and they sent flowers Tuesday afternoon. Michael also handled all the prep for the hospital stay the next day. That evening, friends, Tod and Candace, came by to pray for us. After they left, we got ready and picked my mom up from the airport. We didn’t get home until 10, and we had to be at the hospital at 5 the next morning, so we went to bed.
The morning came pretty quickly. We arrived a few minutes before 5 to the hospital. We had to enter through the emergency room because it was so early. They buzzed Labor and Delivery, and a nurse came down with a wheelchair to wheel me to my room. It was just like the rooms we saw on the tour. In fact, even though we weren’t coming home with a baby, we still got all the things a couple giving a live birth would get – Michael had all his meals for free and delivered to our room, which was nice so he didn’t have to leave very much at all.
Before everything got started, I asked for one more sonogram, just for peace of mind. The nurse contacted our doctor for permission, which we got. An IV was administered while we waited, as well as a blood pressure monitor, and I answered a bunch of medical questions. The sonogram was done and we waited for the radiologist to come back. Nothing had changed, there was no heartbeat, no movement, no baby anymore. So, we started the next step.
For the rest of this post, I will be detailing what I remember from the day. I want to share because I want others to know what they may have to expect if they have to go through this like I did. Of course, it could also be different for them for a number of reasons, but I want you to know what happened for me.
The nurse had to insert pills into me near the cervix to get the induction process started. This wasn’t Pitocin, though I would get Pitocin later after it was done to help contract the uterus. As it was explained to me, this drug is much stronger, and since I had no indication I was even near labor on my own, this would help the process go a little faster. Now, by a little faster, that meant maybe I would get to go home some time the next day. Some women may be a half a day, others it may take three days. I didn’t realize that timeline going into the experience. The longest I had heard of was 10 hours, and the day nurse said that was really the exception, it’s usually much longer.
Something else I didn’t expect was that in the state of Texas, if a baby is born – alive or dead after 20 weeks, we are responsible for a funeral or cremation. The nurse explained this as she handed me a folder full of funeral information, which my husband promptly took. He stepped outside with his phone to go through the list of funeral homes, and handled all of the details. In fact, whenever the nurse had to ask questions about that, he would step into the hall with them so I didn’t have to hear any of it.
Three hours later, they had to insert more pills, and I started to cramp. First they gave me Vicodin, which helped for about 30 mins. When that stopped working, they administered pain meds through the IV. That worked for about 15 mins. So they moved on to the epidural. The anesthesiologist came and set me up as I breathed through cramps and contractions. They also put a monitor on my finger that seemed to monitor the contractions. After the first cool whoosh of meds from the epidural, the cramps finally subsided and for several hours, I would go in and out of sleep.
Lori came by at lunch so that my mom and Michael could go down to the cafeteria. Even though he could have eaten in the room, I was on a fluid only diet before the epidural and then after the epidural I couldn’t have anything other than ice chips. And my stomach grumbled all day. So, since Lori had come to visit, they just decided to eat downstairs, away from my nose and eyes.
The rest of the afternoon was filled with more pills being inserted (I think it was every three hours since the first ones that morning), checking to see how far along I was, and just being in and out of sleep. I had brought magazines and books to read, but I couldn’t concentrate on them long. Then about 5:30, I started cramping in my right side. I pushed the button on the epidural, but it did very little. We had Tod and Candace coming to visit about that time, so I waited until after they left (about 6:30) to let the nurse know I was still cramping. It wasn’t extreme pain, just enough to make me cranky.
So, another anesthesiologist came in, or perhaps it was his nurse, who explained that sometimes gravity could play into where the medicine goes, so first they moved me to where I was raised on my left side, and then she administered a bigger dose through my epidural and the pain subsided pretty quickly. From that point on, I was on a higher dose that could only be administered every 15 minutes.
The nurse told me that if I started to feel pressure down there, to call them in. At about 7 (right at nurse shift change and when I was suppose to get my last dose of inducing meds for the day), I pushed the call button. The easiest way I could describe this was that I felt like I had poop, but it was obviously not coming from the right area. The nurse checked and said that it was all right there, but that it might take a while to all come out. There was also the possibility of complications, like the bag breaking inside of me or the placenta not coming out completely or at all. They told me I would feel the pressure until it was out, and then it would feel like a release. At about 7:30, the release came, and my eyes closed.
This was a very personal decision, but both my husband and I didn’t want to see the baby. We looked away and at each other as they took the baby away and cleaned me up. Thankfully, the bag stayed intact and the placenta came out right behind it, completely intact. The nurse said it couldn’t have gone better. In fact, she said the entire day, my body had the perfect responses to the medicine and behaved perfectly for what it needed to do. All in all it probably took about 12 hours from first cramps to final release for the whole thing. Still, I would need to be monitored overnight.
Also, it all happened so fast that the doctor didn’t even have time to get there (which the nurse said would probably happen as well). Since everything came out that needed to, I didn’t have to have any extra surgery. The doctor checked my stomach and talked to me for a bit, but said if the night goes well, I should go home in the morning.
My mom left with the nurses after the birth to take pictures of the baby. She said that she would keep them just in case a year or 10 years down the road, I want to see them. The hospital also made a birth certificate, with footprints, which my mom will keep with the pictures.
Once the epidural was disconnected, I could again eat food. Michael got me Taco Bell with a Sonic Cherry Limeade, which I ate pretty late. He also went home, took a shower, and checked on the dogs while he was out. By the time I ate, and everything but the IV needle was taken out, I was ready to sleep. They kept the needle in just in case. It would only be removed after I had gone to the bathroom twice on my own (of course I was given a catheter while on the epidural. You don’t get up when you are on an epidural). At about 5 in the morning, I got the IV needle out of my hand, and slept a little longer after. My husband and mom both slept in the room with me. They had a pull out couch for my mom and my husband made a makeshift bed from a recliner and a chair.
At 7, we ordered breakfast, and then I took a shower (a lot of people online suggested to pack a bad similar to the hospital bag for a full term live birth which was great advice). They had pretty awesome showers there. I slept hard through the night, so it was good to get really cleaned off. Plus, I was able to wear my clothes again, which was really nice after wearing a gown all day, and then their disposable underwear with ginormous pads after the birth. They said the bleeding would subside over the next two weeks, and that I would have cramping and discomfort during that time, but that I will get stronger and better each day.
We had to wait for the on call doctor (I go to a clinic of five doctors, and I had already met the four that could have delivered around my due date. Both doctors I interacted with at the hospital, I had met previously and knew them). She arrived about 9ish, and we were discharged at 10. They wheeled me out the front and I got in the car and went home.
Time at home has been a lot of sleeping and crying, but there have been moments of laughter as well. Mom and Michael made Thanksgiving dinner, and we watched the Macy’s parade (half at the hospital and half at home). We spent the rest of the day in front of the TV, just spending time together. That was my experience at the hospital. Next post will wrap it up since this has been really long.
Part 1: Grief – Monday, November 24, 2014
It started a week or so ago. I hadn’t felt the baby move, but I explained it away, chalked it up to the fear and anxiety I carried over from my miscarriage last year. I had an appointment today, so I made note to talk to the doctors about the anxiety.
However, the appointment was not as run of the mill as I hoped. First, there was no heartbeat detected. Then, I had a sonogram done, and there was no growth after 22 weeks, no heartbeat, nothing. I had lost another baby. I was wrapped in the compassionate arms of two of the doctors and a nurse almost immediately. I called my husband who wasn’t there because this was really suppose to be a check up, but he left work immediately to meet me at the clinic.
I was moved to a room with table and chairs, somewhere less clinical, to wait for Michael. I started making calls to family and work to let them know what was going on. I wavered between sobbing breakdowns and staring at nothing in shock. When my husband arrived, the doctor rejoined us to talk about what happens next. I would have to go to a hospital to deliver, something I didn’t think I would be doing until spring.
We went home and I just sat outside for a while. Michael made lunch, and we talked about our plans for the week, making one decision and then wait a couple hours to make the next decision, because it was all so much to take in. We decided we would go to the hospital on Wednesday (our doctor would be on call that day). We wouldn’t be traveling for Thanksgiving, so we would have to figure out something for food that day. I continued making a few more calls and then let the grapevine take over, receiving texts the rest of the day as people found out. My friend Lori came by that evening for some talk about everything and anything, but what was about to happen. It was a nice visit. Finally, my mom and I made plans for her to fly in Tuesday night to help us during the procedure and recovery. It will be good to have her here.